A 13-year old boy last week killed his six-year old girl playmate in GSIS Village in Matina, out of rage, her body thrown into a grassy slope.
The boy admitted before police the crime that shocked the city and is now placed under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, being a minor.
In compliance with a new law on juvenile delinquents, Republic Act 9344, the boy could not be charged having supposedly acted without discernment.
With the passage of RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act , the age of discernment has been raised to 15 years old from nine years old, and those 15 to 18 years can now plead for lack of discernment for a criminal act. Now children like the GSIS juvenile killer can be exempted from all criminal accountability even for rape and murder cases.
The law and its authors have been crucified by critics charging it has licensed minors to kill with impunity without having to answer for the criminal act.
Even judges, aghast at seeing young criminals laughing and free despite having committed rape or murder, believe that the law was rushed due to the pressure and criticism on the international community on the (Arroyo) administration because of the ill treatment of children in conflict with the law.
There is now a nationwide clamor for the law to be amended or repealed, as statistics show it has not helped curb teenage crimes.
Will setting free minors in crimes resolve juvenile violence?
The law, authored by Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Rep. Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, has redefined “child” as a person under 18 years of age.
In Davao City, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is leading a campaign to bury the Pangilinan law—some minors here carry copy of birth certificate showing they are under-aged to wave to police when they get arrested for crimes.
According to the new law, children in conflict with the law will be turned over to school and dormitory-like rehabilitation centers instead of being sent into prison institutes.
Many groups question the law’s standard of the age of discernment, lack of provisions for the victims of child criminals, privileges of the offenders in rehabilitation centers and the possibility that crime syndicates may exploit child criminals since the latter would not be anymore criminal liable.
The law may also be detrimental to peace and order since children could be used as accessories to the crime. Again in Davao City, police records show minors being used by drug dealers to peddle drug in the barangays.
And these young criminals are confident about being accessories and accomplices to crimes since the law ensures their exemption from criminal ability.
As it stands now, the law has proven to be more beneficial to the offender, and leaves the victim at the losing end.
The girl’s murder in peaceful GSIS has left residents dumbfounded that the criminal could not be punished. Will there be another juvenile killer to sow violence without being punished thanks to RA 9344?